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Kelly: [0:03:13] On this episode of The Ready State Podcast we are excited to bring you a conversation with Dan Clark, the CEO of Brain.fm. We’ve known about Brain.fm for a hot minute, and it’s actually part of our lives; it’s even part of our business. So I’m excited to bring this interesting conversation about sort of the frontiers of some neuroscience to you.
Dan Clark, CEO, previously worked as a website and app developer as a kid. His story there is kind of bonkers. He ended up switching careers from building an advertising agency when he came across Brain.fm. In his first session, he bought an account, and was so excited after a week of use he decided he needed to be part of the company. How’s that? After calling 12 times he finally landed a job and worked the first month for free. Fast forward to the present day, and Dan is now the CEO of Brain.fm, and has been included in the Forbes 30 Under 30 in 2019. He’s always excited about how technology can change the world and you will hear that in today’s conversation. Also, stay tuned after the episode because Brain.fm has created a little listening experience for you. You don’t have to do anything else other than just hang tough and go for a ride and see for yourself. We hope you enjoy this conversation. We certainly did.
Juliet: [0:04:27] Dan Clark, welcome to The Ready State Podcast.
Dan Clark: [0:04:29] Thanks for having me.
Juliet: [0:04:30] So we’ve got a lot to talk about today, but could you just give us a little backstory about your life professionally and even personally, just a little bit of how did you get to where you are now, and then we’ll start talking about your awesome work at Brain.fm.
Dan Clark: [0:04:44] Yeah, happy to. So I started martial arts when I was 11. And I know we’re starting early, but there’s a reason for this. So when I was younger, I was picked on, I was bullied, I was overweight. And martial arts really was a vehicle that transformed me into a leader, into a black belt. And then I started teaching kids that. And for the longest time, I thought I was going to open up a martial arts school. At the same time, I made my first website when I was 13 and was kind of playing around with that, and made my academy school website, or my dojo I guess, their first website. And they went from getting 20 leads a month to 120 leads a month, right?
Juliet: [0:05:22] Just by having a website.
Kelly: [0:05:24] This kung fu is strong.
Juliet: [0:05:24] By doing nothing else but just having a website.
Dan Clark: [0:05:26] Yeah. And this is when the early websites were around, right, when everyone was transforming their businesses by going online. And before long, I was making websites for all of his friends. And when I was 17, I was making more money than my parents, dropped out of high school, and was like, maybe I should do something else. I really liked doing that because I was able to help really more people get involved in martial arts, again, as a vehicle to make them their best self, right? Kept doing that.
At 20, I was burned out, actually sold that business, started traveling the world, and wanted to come back and see if I was lucky or if I could do it again. And found out before long that I could take businesses of different sizes and bring them online, automate their business, and really help them scale. And I kept doing that over and over again, started working with more complex businesses, and always used technology to really grow and scale.
Before long though, I eventually found myself in the position where as a digital director of a company, I was selling large advertising contracts, and I got away from helping people. I was just starting to help sell things. You know, really was far from my path and my mission that I really wanted in life. I actually had a near life or death situation – which is for another podcast – and I remember saying, “This is not what I am here for. I want to help people and how do I get back to my roots?” And then that’s when I actually discovered Brain.fm. So I remember always being interested in flow state, what we call now. And I would put different kinds of things, I’d try different new tropics, which are different kinds of vitamins and stuff that you can take, and always found that I had to work between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m. because I could work double the effectiveness. And when I tried Brain.fm for the first time, it was around noon, and I found that I could activate my flow state whenever I wanted to. Basically called the company up, and I said, “Hey, listen, I will work for free. I will do anything. I just want to be part of this rocket ship.”
And I ended up working for free and coming over and leading the tech team, becoming CEO, and then buying the company. So it’s been a wild ride. But the whole time actually has been from this main mission of how can we use technology to help people all around the world, no matter what language you speak and who you are, to be the best version of yourself.
Juliet: [0:07:55] So if you don’t want to tell the story, it would be fine and you can pass. And you said it was for another podcast. But I would love to hear about your near life or death situation, if you’re willing to share.
Dan Clark: [0:08:08] Yeah. So I usually have a rule that I don’t say that unless it’s over drinks with someone. But I’ll give you the highlight. And the highlight was I was staring down the barrel of a gun someone pointed at my face. And I was like, okay, this is it. And I didn’t have my life flash before my eyes. I was like, really? I was upset that this was the way I die. This is the stupidest way, right? And I looked at my life and I said I feel like I had so much more to give to the world and to help people. And then I still wasn’t dead. And I was like, all right, well, now it is. And spoiler, I ended up living, right?
Juliet: [0:08:45] You’re still with us.
Dan Clark: [0:08:46] Yeah. Or at least I hope I am, right? We’re not dreaming. It made me really reevaluate and say, hey, how can I just add as much energy to this system and to this world because I’m really fortunate enough to be able to be where I am, and how can I use those things that I’ve had the privilege, and really accelerate that to be able to help more people that may or may not have the same privileges that I’ve had.
Kelly: [0:09:12] So wait, hang on. Full disclosure, so everyone’s listening, I have been using Brain.fm for a long time. I don’t even know if my Brain.fm awareness predates your time at Brain.fm. But I came to Brain.fm because they sponsored an early iteration of Brain.fm sponsored a podcast by Kyle Kingsbury. And for being on Kyle’s podcast, I got a lifetime subscription to Brain.fm. And I was like, mmm, I know what this is, kind of binaural beats, and oh, it’s interesting. And the first time I put it on, my face got hot, my hands got hot, and I was like a shark riding some rails with a laser beam. And I was like, what is this. And I nerded out.
And one of the reasons the three of us became friends is that we were at a dinner at a conference and someone’s like, “Oh, this is the CEO of Brain.fm.” And I sat down and just nerded out with you. I was like a fanboy. And you’re like, whoa, who is this guy. Brain.fm today is still on my frontpage of my phone.
Dan Clark: [0:10:08] That means a lot. Thank you.
Juliet: [0:10:11] Yeah. So I don’t if there’s a question in that, but I’ll ask one.
Kelly: [0:10:12] No, I just wanted to let everyone know that I love this story.
Juliet: [0:10:13] I’ll ask one. Yeah, I mean, and same. Across the whole company of The Ready State, we’re all gigantic fans of Brain.fm and actually use it. There’s a chance that maybe Kelly has a little ADHD going on somewhere in there and maybe it helps a bit with that, and we can talk about that a bit more later.
Dan Clark: [0:10:28] Sure.
Juliet: [0:10:30] But tell me a little bit, so you gave the overview, you came in, started working there for free, bought the company. But tell people who’ve never heard of Brain.fm or functional music, what is it, how does it work. Give us the whole backstory.
Dan Clark: [0:10:43] Yeah. Sure. So Brain.fm, we create functional music to help people focus, relax and sleep better. The way it works is we create rhythmic pulses in the music that basically match different kinds of mental states that we’re in and help your brain switch from a resting state or maybe overstressed state or maybe even bored to the mental state you’re looking for. We can get into the deep levels of neuroscience in a second, but from an abstract point of view, you can kind of think of your brain as something that oscillates, moves, right? And that’s how it communicates. And if you’re trying to focus, your brain has to move a little bit faster, right? And if you’re trying to relax or sleep, it sometimes has to calm down and slow down. And again, this isn’t the exact neuroscience. We’ll get into that. But from a high level, Brain.fm is really this tool that you can use that works in less than five minutes and helps switch your state and feel the effects. And it works as long as you’re actually listening to the music.
Juliet: [0:11:46] So I imagine there could be some skeptical people out there who hear the word functional music and are like, what? What are we even talking about? But what I know and what you know-
Kelly: [0:11:57] It’s tactical music. I just have to be honest. This is not-
Juliet: [0:12:01] But what I know and you know is there is a lot of legitimate science to support this working and actually having the effect that you’re talking about. And I know that you’ve had research grants funded. So I think we may as well get into the weeds on the deep science and you can tell us a little bit or a lot about what’s going on there.
Dan Clark: [0:12:22] Yeah, so let’s start first with saying I was actually skeptical the first time I used it, to be fair. I tried the other functional music, the isochronic tones, the binaural beats, and I thought this was just the same thing. And after trying it and getting the same effects that Kelly got, I was like what is this thing, and dug into the science, learned as much as I could, and go, oh, this is different.
So backing up first, functional music has always been around, right? Before binaural beats and isocrhonic tones, which I keep referencing, we’ll get into that, functional music has actually been around, kind of why music was made in the beginning. So in every single culture, you have music. And music was the center point for ceremonies and for different kinds of gatherings. If you look and you use that and keep moving forward from religious ceremonies, it actually is like war. So war drums, boom, boom, boom. And as it evolved and grew, functions started turning from actually exhibiting and creating a result for more of an artform for expression and for emotional function, right?
And now today, music has turned into a lot of different things, but music is actually specifically created to grab your attention, to be enjoyable. And those things, while are pleasing to our ears and to different kinds of environments that we’re in, they’re not always necessarily made for function like they used to be. So we’re really trying to take the stuff that I’ve done in the past and that people have been doing for thousands of years and mirroring that with leading edge auditory neuroscience where we’re looking at how different parts of the music interact with different parts of your brain and what effects they elicit. So if we go across the… And we keep going on the functional music, in the 70s binaural beats were created. And for listeners that don’t know, binaural beats is basically when you play one frequency in one ear and another in another, and in your brain stem they combine and they create an amplitude or a difference. And what happens is, is through a process of entrainment, they basically spread throughout your brain through electrical impulses.
And if you look at that, a lot of people have amazing experiences on binaural beats. But in science literature, there’s not a lot of support to show that the effects are measurable, especially long term. And that’s really, it’s a good start, but it’s actually a start… If you look at the science and why it’s happening, the reason is because in your brain stem, it’s kind of like one of the ancient parts of our brain. It has a very low resolution of the things that can change and how it can interact with your prefrontal cortex and the more advanced parts of your brain in the front. And it’s, again, not as effective.
Brain.fm, what we’ve done is something a little bit different. So we call it neural face locking. It’s actually, instead of a binaural, it’s actually monaural. We’re combining it in the music itself. And through the properties that we do of amplitude modulation, where instead of modulating frequency, we’re modulating the amplitude of the music. That’s sounds almost like a helicopter, if you think about it. On, off, on, off. And what we do is we disguise the music, and when you’re listening to it, instead of entraining your brain stem, it actually bypasses that and goes right to the functional networks of your brain, the higher functions, which allows us to have a greater resolution, a faster effect, and more long-term results that can be measured in blood flow, which is your fMRI, EEG, which are your electrical impulses from your brain, and actually video game and psychological tests that we put a lot of energy and effort to really measure and make sure it’s successful. So I’m going to pause there. It’s a lot of science. It’s only like a tenth of it. But I want to see if there’s any things we want to connect to or point at.
Kelly: [0:16:22] Well, you know, I think one of the things that people can relate to is music is happening in movies in the background all the time. You’re being constantly manipulated with sound. Just watch a horror movie without soundtrack and you’re like, it’s not really that scary. That werewolf is kind of like… I just see a door slamming in the background. It’s not the same thing. So I think people can relate to that. The second piece is that I often have found I cannot get any work done with music; I need silence. And when I first kind of popped this in, I was like, oh boy, here we go. I’m going to be distracted. And what I found is that I wasn’t distracted at all.
In fact, this is a story I don’t think you know, and I don’t know if you know or not. When I was training for my first Moloka’i crossing, I actually called you guys and said, “Can I have some downloaded MP3s?” because I won’t have service. And you guys sent me five hours of music and that’s what I trained with. I would put on the Brain.fm into my little iPod Mini and I would just follow, kind of get into this flow state and do kind of freakish amounts of two and three hour paddles. And I would just be like, whoa, I just time traveled, what happened. It was really, it was amazing.
But the work, et cetera, I never found it to be distracting. Sometimes I just don’t like to listen to music when I’m working out because I can’t hear, I can’t feel; it just doesn’t work. What I found was this allowed me and still allows me to just tune out everything else and hyperfocus.
Dan Clark: [0:17:46] Yeah. So aside from all of the patents and those deep science that we’re talking about, the other thing that we really spend a lot of time on is parts of the music that aren’t patentable, right? The things that we’ve always been doing. So what genres of music affect people, right? There’s a thing called salience, which is the difference between sounds. So a loud clang, for example, it takes your attention. And what we do is we do large-scale testing with people to see what knobs make the most difference. What is the optimal level of enjoyment to boring, right?
We’re actually trying to make music that you enjoy listening to, but as you listen to it kind of like melds into the background because it’s just good enough not to be boring but not too stimulating too. The way I kind of thing about it is kind of how we’ve evolved, right? So if you are walking through the forest and you hear a crunch, right, that’s a very large salience event, and you’re like, holy crap, there’s a tiger that’s coming to eat me, right? I’ve got to run away. So from the way our brains are wired, they’re actually built for detecting sound.
And what’s really interesting is your ears are just as sophisticated as your eyes. They take 3D sound and space and they basically put it into an analog 2D system and we’re able to see and then locate where places, where sound is. So suffice to say that we have a lot of different testing to see what is the optimal music to listen to and then how can we add the science on top of it to really make an experience that gives the results they’ve been looking for.
Juliet: [0:19:28] So my question is just sort of back to a couple of things we’ve talked about, but does this work better for some people versus others or in some situations versus others? And let me give you three examples, just of the three of us sitting at the table.
Dan Clark: [0:19:42] Sure.
Juliet: [0:19:41] Lisa, for example, it’s an ongoing thing we have, who’s our producer, you can’t see her, is a night owl. And she’s a tried and true night owl. It sounds like maybe you started off as a night owl and then were able to actually focus during the day with Brain.fm. So is that a use case? Kelly may have a little bit of a monkey brain going on. Is that sort of a use case for focus? The thing that I find it the most useful for is I’m the worst napper of all time. I want to nap. I want to learn how to nap. But I have a crazy monkey brain when I lay down to nap and I can’t ever fall asleep. So I love to use it to take a 20- or 30-minute nap in the afternoon. That’s the way I like to use it. But do you find that it slots into it is useful for certain people for certain things, or is it universally useful? What do you see?
Dan Clark: [0:20:28] So many things from those three questions. So there’s some things that we are seeing in science and there’s some things that are speculative. So we actually have a paper in review in Nature right now. Kelly, I think I actually sent the pre-publication to you. And we’re actually seeing that people that have a spectrum of ADHD, we can actually really enhance their focus and help them concentrating, right? That science that we’ve talked about, those amplitude modulations, we actually can control. So we can put a little bit of power on there or we can put a ton, depending on where you are. So we’re actually finding from this paper that if we learn more about you, we can personalize the exact science to what you need in that moment.
And that’s actually the next level of our product. So we’re going to start working on some quizzes to learn more about you but actually getting feedback on how it interacts with your body, if we do an Apple Watch or a WHOOP or an Oura Ring, and actually change the music and personalize it to what you need.
Aside from that though, you bring up a really good point, Juliet, and we actually see exactly what you and Kelly both experience. So some people, they have no problem focusing, right? But usually, those people that don’t have problems focusing have challenges falling asleep. And in the same way, the opposite. So for example, I have a really challenging time focusing. So that’s where I use Brain.fm all the time. I don’t really have a problem sleeping. It’s not really effective. So I always tell people to try what’s best for them and really experiment because we are just at the forefront of really figuring out neuroscience.
My director of neuroscience was telling me that we know more about the Pluto than we know about how some of the inner workings of our brain works. So we’re definitely on a quest to do that. And because we’re a science first company we spend a lot of experiments on that. We get funding from National Science Foundation, as you mentioned, and really try and understand how can we use this to help people focus but also understand more about their brain to be able to perform at the level they want to for whatever that means.
Kelly: [0:22:36] If I recall, we were having a conversation and you were telling me about some of the use of Brain.fm in the hospital. Do I remember that correctly?
Dan Clark: [0:22:44] Yeah.
Kelly: [0:22:45] Some of the research that you were doing, could you talk about that because I think this is really interesting. And for context, I just want to remind everyone that you are always trying to change your state in one way or another. You just do it with caffeine or THC or alcohol or TV. And those things are either chemically driven or you’re dropping into some pseudo alpha state on TV. I mean you’re just trying to up regulate, down regulate all the time. I mean I just want people to understand that this is just another way, a really powerful way in, that is not drug, not TV. I mean it’s interesting that, just for context, if you’re hearing this and you’re like, this is crazy, it is, except you’re already doing this in so many other ways in your life.
Dan Clark: [0:23:26] Totally.
Kelly: [0:23:28] Now talk about what I think I remember you saying about what’s going on in hospitals.
Dan Clark: [0:23:33] Yeah. There’s just so many things, just to that point real quick, that you’re doing subconsciously or consciously, and I like to think of Brain.fm as a tool that allows you to have more control over that because the only difference between humans 10,000 years ago and today are the tools we have, right? So to the-
Kelly: [0:23:52] I like that.
Dan Clark: [0:23:53] Part about hospitals, yeah, we’re doing some really interesting things there. So the way Brain.fm is structured is we’re a consumer app, right, where you can use us in your daily life. We sell to Fortune 100 clients. And we also have IP that we’re mentioning; we try to leverage that to help people. And the story is that my girlfriend was getting her tonsils out. She signed her life to me to make life or death situations. It told me we were serious at that point and it made me realize how scary that is for people that are getting anesthesia for the first or 10th time, depending on what surgery they’re going through. And actually called up our neuroscientist and said, “Hey, is there any data and research to show that we can use this in a hospital setting to help people?” And it really actually started with anxiety treatments, right? So there’s some really great research on music used to help reduce anxiety. And there was this great study about that compared to an anti-anxiety medication. And this music beat an anti-anxiety medication that was administered to someone. And we said, hey-
Kelly: [0:24:59] I can ask any 13-year-old person going through puberty if music helps them deal with anxiety. I was just thinking about my own children and music, right?
Dan Clark: [0:25:08] Yeah. And it’s true. That’s where a lot of people discover music, is when they’re going through puberty, to help them cope. And so there’s a lot of research to do that. And so we said, okay, let’s take all this stuff that they discovered in research and let’s throw that through our smart algorithms on how to compose music. Let’s give that to our composers that build this music from scratch, and let’s see what we can do. And we found that we were able to reduce anxiety by another 50 percent, which is huge in comparison to some of the other measures for success. So we’re starting a clinical study with that.
And then along the way in this pre-clinic, we actually said, hey, as part of this medical relax, one of the things that’s really challenging for patients is waking up. So I don’t know if anyone has gotten anesthesia but you wake up sometimes emotional where you’re crying and you’re confused and all that. Or especially for men, they actually wake up combative where they try to punch a nurse. And obviously that’s not on purpose. It’s a weird thing because your brain is actually kind of shutting off. And we said, hey, maybe we can help people wake up faster; we can kickstart their cognition. And we started making wake up music for hospitals too.
We’re doing a clinical study right now and some of our preliminary results are people are having better experiences, less anxiety getting needles in their arms. But what’s really interesting is people are waking up 200 percent faster from anesthesia and they’re not waking up combative and emotional and they’re able to get up, know where they are, be very aware of their environment, and be discharged from the hospital faster. And this is just an effect that, which is really cool, is it’s not something that could be a placebo because we’re testing that, we’re doing AB testing. But also, if you’re unconscious, there’s no placebo effect from being able to wake up. You can’t be like, all right, wake up.
Kelly: [0:27:03] I don’t believe in this.
Dan Clark: [0:27:04] Yeah, exactly. Right. It’s an effect on the brain. And what’s really interesting is it connects because our ADHD paper, it’s one of the only ways you can stop propofol, which is one of the main sedatives used in surgeries, is actually through Ritalin. That’s one of the only reverses of that. And we find that there’s an interrelated thing to how the brain is communicating to itself and how we can basically take it from one state, align things, and bring it to another.
Kelly: [0:27:33] I think that’s pretty extraordinary. Surgery’s part of people’s experience. And you’re absolutely right that there’s a ton of anxiety and worry. And just having woken up from anesthesia a year ago, I immediately woke up and started flexing my quad. I had none of those things. I became hyper obsessed with the fact that my leg was not going to be connected to my brain. But besides what has been, because you’re the CEO now, you’re the user, you work with the company, you’ve become the CEO, what has been the most surprising test case or story that you’ve heard? Because there’s a lot of, what do you call it, serial anecdotal empiricism where isn’t it one times 10,000? Everyone is so unique and interesting. But what have been some of the craziest stories you’ve heard about people using Brain.fm?
Dan Clark: [0:28:19] Yeah. So we actually have an internal think inside of our site called Love Letters where we share a lot of this stuff. And we get people that write in every single day. So we have about two million users right now. Planning on growing and scaling this; that’s the phase we’re at. But we get a lot of emotional things of people not having the tools that they need. So a lot of it is, “Hey, I am on medication and I am trying my best to do x, y, and z, and I’ve tried every single thing there is. And I tried Brain.fm last night to sleep and I have slept the first time in 10 years.” And they’re crying and they’re creating these videos for us.
Kelly: [0:28:56] Wow.
Dan Clark: [0:28:57] So we get a lot of those. We get a lot of people that are, this is the missing piece. And just for everyone here, I’m not saying that this can replace medication or anything like that. But it is something that is another thing that fits in the equation, whether it’s maybe reducing or doing it instead of or whatever it is. And that’s for people to try themselves.
But anecdotally, people use this really interesting in different kinds of things. So people have used this for working out. We’ve kind of studied that and there’s some things that we can talk about if we have time. But people are using this at the gym or working out or to complete marathons or ultra marathons. We have some people that are using this to prime themselves before actually working or whatever so they combo focus and relax together. So they’ll do a relax session, a focus session, a relax session, and into focus. And basically, they’re able to amp their focus in waves and being able to find something of that nature.
We have people that use this sexually actually, which is kind of funny. Because we’re increasing and changing blood flow in your brain, there’s a lot of tantric blogs that recommend Brain.fm for different activities because of that. So that’s kind of interesting.
Kelly: [0:30:09] The most downloaded podcast in history. Focus. Sex. Sleep. I mean what else can we talk about here?
Dan Clark: [0:30:17] Yeah. There’s a lot of interesting things. I think the one that actually surprises me and how my usage has changed over time was I used to use it for deep work, and now I’m finding myself using it more for being creative and to set goals and to almost enter this meditative state where I can say, okay, where is my control screen kind of thing. And taking a step back, and I think a lot of people really, they try to meditate, they try to do all these things, but they don’t really have almost like a guide. And this is kind of a thing that basically able to increase you to find that thing that we’re all trying to find in being able to sit there. So one of my favorite things is putting on relax and just journaling, and just journaling on how I feel, where things are going, doing brain dumps. And I find that I-
Kelly: [0:31:08] You need to stop talking right now. Juliet’s looking at me, she’s kicking me under the table.
Juliet: [0:31:12] That is not true.
Kelly: [0:31:13] Getting in contact with my feeling.
Juliet: [0:31:15] Your single. The one.
Kelly: [0:31:16] The one feeling.
Juliet: [0:31:17] The single feeling. I would actually… We don’t have an endless amount of time but I would love to hear more about what you’re learning about people using this in a workout context.
Dan Clark: [0:31:26] Yeah, of course. So people are using this a lot for relaxation after workout. So being able to recover and being able to do this with different kinds of body mechanics like stretching or things that help really get ready for the next time they do it. If you think about the down regulation and controlling your parasympathetic nervous system versus all the other things we could talk about here, it really does help kickstart that and switch that from high intensity workout to cool down and relax.
Kelly: [0:31:58] Did you know that at our gym, San Francisco CrossFit, we had a recovery corner where people could come and put on the boots and put on Brain.fm and just-
Dan Clark: [0:32:06] I did not know that.
Kelly: [0:32:07] Help them recover and down regulate? We had a little corner of the room and Brain.fm was part of that whole thing. I mean we’ve got to get you turned on and we’ve got to get you to hit the brakes. And people loved it. They’d put on the iPod, jump in the boots.
Juliet: [0:32:19] Yeah, get in the boots.
Kelly: [0:32:20] And just disappear.
Juliet: [0:32:20] Recline. Yeah. It was great.
Dan Clark: [0:32:22] Yeah. That’s something that a lot of people, a lot of athletes have been using and shared with us about. We have some athletes that are using this for focus and using the gym, things like that. We actually spent a lot of energy looking at creating workout music. And it’s still on our backlog of things that we want to do. But it’s actually really interesting because some of the preliminary stuff shows that it actually is just so many variables. So you could be cycling, working out, you could be doing CrossFit, whatever it may be. But then not only is it about what activity area you doing, but it’s also about yourself. Are you six feet tall or are you five feet tall? All these different kinds of metabolism. We actually said we know we can do something here, but it’s such a big challenge, let’s first nail focus, working, getting into the zone, start basically growing the business so we could finance doing all of the different kinds of studies that we need to do.
Juliet: [0:33:20] Yeah, I mean it really could be never ending, right, if you think of all the different sub-categories of groups and situations where you could study whether Brain.fm enhances those experiences. It’s never ending.
Kelly: [0:33:31] Yeah. I need the one rep max deadlift to music, right?
Juliet: [0:33:32] It’s true, right? I mean I think your challenge is going to be how do you choose among the 50,000 different uses of Brain.fm to figure out what’s the most bang for your buck in terms of actually doing real deep research. So I mean that’s a real good problem to have.
Kelly: [0:33:48] Pivoting for a second, because obviously Juliet and I are users and like this and I think people should download it and have a run at it. I mean we put it on our kids when they need to study. It’s pretty fun. From the business side, what has been some of the biggest surprises? You’ve been building businesses, helping people, and now you get to colonize a business and really know top to bottom, soup to nuts, what’s going on. What does that feel like? What has been some of the biggest surprises, especially in this we are in this tech heavy saturation of getting people’s attention. Two million users is a lot of users. But what have you learned and what are you finding out about growing this company?
Dan Clark: [0:34:32] Yeah. I think all the things I’m about to say are probably things you already know. Do less things better, right? So as you were saying just now, Juliet, that we can do a lot of things. We have not only stuff that we can help with different kind of consumer products like that workout we were just talking about, we can do different things in medical space, like we know we can actually help with Alzheimer’s. There’s this amazing study reversing Alzheimer’s. There’s stuff with autism. We’re already doing stuff with ADHD, with all of these things. And then we have these partnerships that are coming in.
So actually, the biggest challenge has been learning to say no or not yet because Brain.fm’s main mission is to help people. And everyone’s like, “Oh, well, you can help me from doing these things personally.” We get people that ask us to help them with their dogs and their cats, right, believe it or not. For a really long time we had to start saying no to things and start to prioritize building a really strong business first so that we can then invest in doing things the right way. And that honestly has been the largest challenge for me personally, is someone saying, “Hey, I have this,” and we know we can help them, and we have to say, “You’ve got to wait like a year.”
But with that being said, I think there’s tremendous opportunity that the way we’re really trying to focus on growing this business. So normally in a business, you don’t have the science or the music piece. And what we have here is we have a digital, like a product, an app product, right? And then we actually have world class musicians that have worked with people from all around and literally have been musicians themselves with record labels and all that. And they’re creating the music from scratch. And we have these neuroscientists that we employ. So we’re actually kind of a top-heavy business. And it’s been finding out how to basically get to the level that we can start really investing, growing, and starting to scale.
And I think that’s been the most surprising things, doing the things that we’re doing, focus, relax and sleep, and how can we do them extremely well. How can we make it so that no matter who is listening to it, we learn more about you, and we can learn about you to build better music? So Kelly puts on the app, he has his Oura Ring, we ask him a couple questions, and we say, cool, set it and forget it, and it automatically starts adjusting and gets you right in the zone. And then Juliet puts it on, and you’re different, but we make similar effects for you. And that’s really our main focus right now, is how do we just make the best product in the world to help you switch and then stay there.
Juliet: [0:37:10] So I have a question for you. One of the I think maybe challenges Kelly and I have, and I’m wondering if you have this challenge, is that we started our business really to help people understand how their body works and give them some tools to work on it. But like you, in order to keep doing what we’re doing and grow our business and get it into the hands of more people, we are in the position of having to sell stuff to people, which isn’t natural to us. What we want to do is focus on the first part of the business, but of course, in order to get it into the hands of people and actually help them, we need to sell stuff to people.
And I know you found Brain.fm and fell in love with it and left your old jobs because you were tired of selling stuff to people. So I don’t know, I’m just wondering how you sort of deal with that in your own mind or if it bothers you at all, or whether you even think about that.
Dan Clark: [0:37:55] Yeah. Good question. So I think the way I look at it has probably evolved over the last few years. But I look at it and I say, hey, if we build a business that creates so much value in someone’s life, there has to be a monetary price for that. Not necessarily for that individual, but actually to reach the next person. So the way I think about it is, yes, we are a business. We have to be successful because people have to get paid to make the music and to do the engineering and all those things. But it’s kind of the way I look at it is more so where if we reach someone and they see it makes a dramatic effect on their life, we want to build a 10x value. So if we’re $50 a year, which we are, my goal is to provide $500 of value. That this tool is so well-suited that you’re like, yes, I’m willing to invest here.
And then the idea is that by charging $50 or if we ever increase our prices, that actually helps fund the continual effect of us learning more and making the product better for that individual. And at the same time, it helps us spread what’s helped for them to other people that need help just like them. I’m a really big believer in one plus one equals three. So how can you make a win, win, win so that when I’m in a relationship with someone, I win, you win, and then some other random person wins. And that’s how we kind of have structured the business, so the bigger Brain.fm grows, the more we can invest in science, the more we can make a better product, and then the more people will be attracted to Brain.fm because of that and we can keep spiraling up.
Juliet: [0:39:44] So cool. That’s such a good way to think about that. So Dan, what are you looking forward to? Personally, professionally, what are you looking forward to?
Kelly: [0:39:52] Besides just crushing the first three Dune books. I mean just kudos to you.
Dan Clark: [0:39:54] Yeah, you got me into that.
Kelly: [0:39:59] Sorry, not sorry. Besides the fact that the sleeper has awoken, what are you personally working on? What are you fired up about, as Juliet said?
Dan Clark: [0:40:08] Yeah. I am fired up about finally being in a place where Brain.fm is starting to I think leave the atmosphere and take off. To get to where we are right now, we’ve kind of been holding all of the people. We’ve been holding all of the different parts of the team and using consumer growth, stealing a little bit from putting more into consumer growth into starting these other verticals. And now, things are starting to take off, for lack of a better word.
So my main intention is how can we make sure that we are on our way to Mars metaphorically and I put all of my energy into ensuring that we get there. So how do we go from 2 million users to 20 million? How do we actually make this so that when you go to a doctor’s office, you can say, “Hey, I want to use Brain.fm” and you have these really special headphones that we’re using and creating an experience where you get a better effect? And then eventually, building the next level of Brain.fm too, which is that wearable stuff that I was talking about.
One thing that we haven’t talked about is that Brain.fm is actually not an audio company. We’re a neuro modulation company. We use audio to neuro modulate your brain. But we actually own patents and have the same technology to do this with light and with touch as well. So I think there are some really cool things that we can play with as we go. And my holy grail that we’re looking for is how do you go to an airport and you have this experience where you get to walk into something and you get to feel it and experience this and get activated, and then being able to be like, wow, this is something that I need. And that’s what we’re building to, is how do we build distribution, how do we get this in the hands of more people, and how can we help those people.
Juliet: [0:42:03] So cool. So first of all, I think we’ve said Brain.fm like a thousand times on this. So we know people can find your app in the app store, Brain.fm. But where else can people find and learn more about the research you guys are doing and keep track of this and sort of follow the journey, because it’s so interesting and-
Kelly: [0:42:19] And play along themselves.
Juliet: [0:42:20] Ever evolving, and play along themselves?
Dan Clark: [0:42:22] Yeah. So a few things. So you can go to Brain.fm. We also have iOS and Android apps which you can download and try out for yourselves. At the time of this recording, we give everyone three days free. So it’s no credit card. You can just jump in and start trying this, really evaluate how it works for you. You can follow us in publications, like Nature and things like that we are publishing in, and see us on a website. And then depending on how long this podcast is, I can actually attach and send you guys a 30 minute or something to stitch to the end of this podcast so people can just keep listening and hear Brain.fm.
Juliet: [0:42:56] That’d be so cool. I love it. Yes, we will. Yes, we will be doing that. So stay tuned people. That’s coming next.
Kelly: [0:43:02] I want to just remind everyone that when we first relaunched The Ready State, we were such Brain.fm fans that in our down regulation videos we had Brain.fm music going. And of course, the problem was, people were playing it, it was background, they didn’t know what they were hearing. You know what I mean? It was just like it was a failed experiment because the application of it just didn’t work necessarily. People were like, “What’s this music on my phone?” It’s better to do our down regulation, listen to Brain.fm.
Dan Clark: [0:43:31] Yeah. And I think we can do better integrations now that both The Ready State and-
Kelly: [0:43:35] Wasn’t you. I’m just saying that we were such nerds.
Juliet: [0:43:36] I think we should revisit that, Dan, because I think that we weren’t quite ready for it. But we are now.
Kelly: [0:43:43] And I was like, we’re putting it in everywhere. Can you put it in my toothpaste? Let’s do this.
Juliet: [0:43:48] All right. Well, thank you so much, Dan for being with us. It’s so fun to see you and learn more.
Kelly: [0:43:52] Great to see you, Dan. Thanks, man.
Dan Clark: [0:43:53] My pleasure. This was fun.
Kelly: [0:43:55] We hope you enjoyed our talk with Dan Clark of Brain.fm, and stay tuned after the outro because Brain.fm has gifted us a little sample. So you don’t have to do anything. Just keep your headphones in, drop into some Brain.fm and see what we’re talking about for yourself. Hope you enjoy.Back to Episode